I had this eggplant dish in Dallas once, made by a Persian friend of my Irish neighbor’s, and loved it; there are a ton of Persian restaurants in So. California, a handful in Dallas, yet I have not seen a single one in Beirut. In any case, when an Iranian exhibit opened here last year, I was dying to go, get some saffron and check out all the goodies. I could not resist stocking up on glazed tableware, woven tablecloths and candies; I almost got a rug too.
Kashk is whey extracted from yogurt; it is sold in tub or jars and is creamy with a slightly sour taste; it pairs really well with eggplant. I was in a hurry and prepared this like a baba ghannouj, by smoking the eggplant over the gas flame and mashing it.
This is Najmieh’s Batmanglij’ recipe from New Food of Life, adapted.
- 2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced; slices sprinkled with salt for 30 minutes then rinsed and dried.
- 3 large onions, sliced
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 Tbsp garlic paste, divided (mash 10 cloves of garlic with some salt in a mortar till pasty)
- Spices: 1 tsp turmeric, 2 Tbsp mint powder, salt, black pepper (dash)
Garnish for the dish: 1 Tbsp of garlic paste, 1 Tbsp mint powder, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup kashk, 1/4 tsp saffron dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
1. Fry the eggplant slices in the hot oil, pat dry and set aside; fry the onions and garlic; add the turmeric and mint powder and set aside; transfer the eggplant slices into an ovenproof dish, add layers of onions, garlic, spices and 1/2 cup of water; bake for 20 minutes till tender.
2. Top with the kashk, the remaining garlic and mint and saffron; bake for 10 minutes longer; serve with bread.
NOTE: The kashk is sold at Iranian groceries and other ethnic stores; drained yogurt or a good soft feta should be an OK substitute.